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On Hitchhiking in Morocco

By Tony Pro · Jan 2, 2016 ·
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5/5,
  1. Tony Pro

    Tony Pro Celebrated Poster

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    I know I'm not the only one for whom this is true -- "I didn't feel immersed in an alien culture until I realized in Morocco you're supposed to hitchhike with your index finger, not your thumb." An Italian told me that as we were trying to hitchhike out of Marrakech. "You read my mind," I told him. Money being the universal language, you can travel to any touristic city on earth and not feel like you're very far from home. A great way to feel like a fish out of water is to travel to a developing country and appeal to people's charity.

    sam_3495.
    Happily, Moroccans are among the most hospitable people on earth. Get your hash-addicted ass out of the streets of Chefchaouen and into the mountain villages; you'll see what I'm talking about. Moroccans are so good to guests I no longer bother to bring a tent when I visit, since anyone will let you sleep on their floor. So why isn't hitchhiking as simple? Because in Morocco, nothing relating to transport is remotely simple.

    So is it a good way to get around?
    Yes and no. It's easier than most places in the Western world. But like in most non-Western countries, it’s often expected to pay for lifts. But don’t let this scare you off; it's easy enough to tell whether a driver is expecting payment. Hell, it's easy enough to ask. Between locals payment is standard, since public transportation is a sketchy system altogether, and deep in the mountains public transport can be as rare as one taxi a week (NB this is very unusual).

    This is observable proof of my theory is that a hitchhiking society is the fundamental state of any society.

    Anyway, as a foreigner, you will not always be expected to pay. Many of your lifts will be the snooty sort who would not pick up locals, but are curious about tourists. Others could use the money but want to be seen as good hosts. In this case it’s always polite to offer a little payment.


    sam_2875.
    If you’re genuinely skint, clear that with the driver before you get in the vehicle. As often as not, the reply I will be “Monsieur, c’nest pas comme ca! Entrez-vous!” But you should expect to fork out cash occasionally, and the upshot of this is that it isn’t always cost effective to hitch long distances. Taking a bus may end up cheaper than paying for many short lifts, although of course hitching is a lot more fun.

    Another option is to talk to your way onboard a camion, (truck). These can be very slow but they cover long distances so you only have to pay once. For locals there is or used to be a semi – standard rate of 10 dirham no matter how long the ride. Since it’s often the camions which rescue you from the most hopelessly deserted mountain roads, I don’t mind paying the truck driver whatever I think a taxi would have cost.


    On my first visit to the country, while I was trying to hitch my way out of the Dades Gorge where I'd spent the last three days lost, I came across a stretch of landscape so beautiful I stopped thumbing so I could walk through it at leisure. Before long a car pulled over next to me. It was packed absolutely full of elderly people The man driving rolled down the window. "Do you need a lift, sir?" he asked in French. I eyed the contents of the back seat again. "Yes," I replied, "but I think you don't have enough room for me." That was an understatement. "Mais oui," he said, "These women just wanted to make sure you were okay, because you look like a hitchhiker and there aren't many cars on this road." These people had absolutely nothing to offer me, but they had stopped all the same, just to check on my well being and offer me kind words. In the days prior I'd met a lot of greedy drivers and had given up on the idea of getting free lifts in Morocco. This episode proved to me not only that 'autostop' is a recognized practice in morocco, but also that Moroccans are human after all. These people were probably carpooling to go visit grown children in the cities, the breadwinners of the family. Maybe some of these grannies were hitchers themselves, and that's how they recognized me as one of them. We all scrabble to get places; it's part of the daily scrabble to survive. Moroccans understand that better than most people.

    I hear a lot about shared taxis. What’s the deal with those? Grand taxis’, as they are called, will get you pretty much anywhere you want to go, and they’re easier to find than a bus. But they’re also slightly more expensive. The plus side is that they’re definitely the fastest way to get around. The downside is they’re massively uncomfortable. To maximize profits, the five-seater taxi will always be crammed with six passengers plus driver. For this reason I’ll never take a taxi ride longer than an hour. Of course there’s always the option to buy two seats for yourself, though, and this has the bonus of allowing the taxi to depart sooner, instead of waiting for a 6th passenger.
    One more thing about shared taxis, they’ll never try to rip you off. You only need to haggle if you’re taking a taxi by yourself.


    sam_3174.
    The Moroccan style of hitching is the style of the travel atavist, the scrabbler-after-strange-horizons, or what I sometimes call the 'hook or crook' travel method. It's how kids get to school in communities that can't afford buses, how women from the mountains get to the market to sell homegrown olives and oregano. It's a lifeline for society in a country as sprawled out as Morocco, and as a tourist you are most welcome to try your luck with it. Sure it may be a bit of a fuss, but in a country where any kind of transport is a bit of a fuss, the Universal Perks of Hitchhiking carry extra weight. I’ve had many of my best ever hitching experiences in Morocco. It’s a great way to meet English speakers, a great way to get invited for tea in someone’s home, a great way to get lost and see places you’d never imagined visiting.

    To conclude, I must say that my favorite part of hitching in Morocco is the prevalence of pickup trucks. Every pickup fancies itself a taxi, so your odds are good of getting a ride from one. As you probably know, nothing spells ‘Travel’ with a capital T like catching a ride in the back of a pickup truck. You feel like a king with the wind in your ears, the pure thrill of motion, and the landscape unfurling in panoramic splendor. And it's dirham to donuts that the driver's going to invite you to have dinner with his family.

    So yeah, give it a go.


    (this article originally appeared on my personal blog)
     
    • Like Like x 4
    #1 Tony Pro, Jan 2, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 23, 2016
  2. Peanut Butter Boy

    Peanut Butter Boy is getting to know the place

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    Thanks for your advices ! I'll know I need to use my index instead of my thumbs ahha !
    good articles and nice pictures !
     
  3. Stalker pup

    Stalker pup Previously Jaunius Sinkevicius

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    Today i am in Spain, Alicante, slowly heading further south, where after hitchhiking all over Europe for the last three months i will conclude my journey by spending another three in Morocco. Your post is very encouraging, and very interesting. I'm hoping i will be able to communicate using english, as i can't babble any french or arabic for the life of me, but hey, sign language has its place as well.
     
  4. Hobo Mud

    Hobo Mud Keeping it hobo style
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    Enjoyed reading the post and thanks for sharing the information.